During a visit to Millikan High School today, Superintendent of Schools Christopher J. Steinhauser and representatives of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation surprised two graduating high school seniors with the news that they had won $10,000 each in scholarships. The two scholarship recipients are among 17 students district-wide who will receive a total of $125,000 in Broad Prize scholarships, the foundation announced today. The Long Beach Unified School District received the scholarships because the district was selected as one of the top five finalists last year for the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education. “We are proud to support these Broad Prize scholars in their pursuit of college,” said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, a national education philanthropy based in Los Angeles that sponsors the scholarships. “What is remarkable about these students is that they have demonstrated improvement over the course of high school, and we look forward to their success continuing in college.” Surprised Millikan senior and scholarship recipient Gabriel Cruz will use the $10,000 award when he attends Mt. St. Mary’s College. He earned the award for showing dramatic improvement in his grades between ninth and twelfth grades. “This means a lot to me, because I have improved, and I have tried really hard, and I couldn't have done it without my parents,” Cruz, joined by his parents, told the audience during a news conference at his school. “Going to a school that's going to cost me more than $37,000 a year, this is really going to come in handy. I couldn’t have done this without the wonderful educators and administrators here in Long Beach.” The scholarships were awarded during a visit to LBUSD by a national education panel seeking to gather information to assist prominent national leaders, including former governors, the former U.S. secretary of education, university presidents and CEOs as they decide whether LBUSD will win the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education. The Broad Prize for Urban Education honors large urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among ethnic groups and between high- and low-income students. The top winner receives $500,000 in student scholarships. Four remaining finalists receive $125,000 each in scholarships. In all, the prize money totals $1 million. "We’re deeply honored to be among the top five school systems in the nation again," said Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools for the Long Beach Unified School District. "The real winners are our students. The latest finalist recognition brings our Broad Scholarship total to at least $875,000 since 2003. The Broad Foundation’s generosity and encouragement continue to make a profound, positive difference for our students and schools." Unlike most traditional scholarships that are awarded only to top-tier students, Broad Prize scholarships are awarded to graduating high school seniors who have a demonstrated record of improving their grades over the course of their high school career and have financial need. LBUSD seniors were eligible for two- or four-year scholarships depending on the type of institution they choose to attend. Scholarship recipients who enroll in four-year institutions receive $10,000 paid out over four years ($2,500 per year). Students who enroll in two-year institutions receive $2,500 scholarships paid out over two years ($1,250 per year). The scholarship selection and disbursement process is managed by Scholarship and Recognition Programs, a unit of Educational Testing Service.